Part 2 – Alawites or Nusayris
Alawites or Nusayris don’t seem to have a mosque or any specific place of worship but instead tend to perform prayers at home and it is said that these prayers are to be done five times a day but this apparently isn’t that strictly observed today
Controversies against Alawites or Nusayris
The Alawites or Nusayris have since the Middle Ages been very much contained or centralized to the coastal regions in Syria along the Mediterranean coast. They have been a rather controversial group as many Muslim scholars and jurists have considered them heretics or non-Muslims.
Very famous Muslim traveler and writer Eben Battuta included interesting section about the group quote “most who live in this coastal region belonged to the sect, it is they who believe that Ali is a God they don’t pray and they don’t do the ritual ablutions. They don’t even celebrate the month of fasting. Al Malik Azha had forced them to build mosques in the villages and they did build a mosque in every village but far from their homes and they neither use nor maintain them.
They even keep their sheep and donkeys there. Sometimes strangers come to their land and stop by a mosque and call to prayer, then they may call to him and say Stop Crying; you shall soon have your father. this sect is large in numbers”
There appears to have been periods of great oppression during Ottoman times for Alawites or Nusayris. Many of the Alawites lands were confiscated and Alawites were forced to work as poor farmers. After the rule of the Ottomans and under the rule of the French, were given autonomy and was supported by the colonial masters as is often the case the colonial powers supported minority groups in their bid to destabilize the region and create opposition to these Sunni majority.
It is here in the 20th century that some of the most significant developments take place within this religious group. Many new societies were so poor that they were forced to enlist in the military or work for the state in Syria which begins their strong relationship with the government.
At the same time in the 1920s the name Alawites was applied for the first time. The name Alawites comes from the name of Ali’s and the change can be said to be a way to convey their closeness to Shia Islam; partly to gain greater acceptance by other Muslims in the region but also to stand in opposition to the Sunnis, which of course gladden the French and British powers a lot.
In fact the question of their relationship or their status as Muslims or non-muslims is a very contested issue and debate appears to have been in the 20th century a conscious efforts on part of the other to move closer to Islam. Al-assad becoming president of syria in 1971 and as the constitution requires that the president be Muslim there has been a campaign to prove that the Alawites are simply a branch of Twelver Shia Islam; something that many Shia and Sunni Muslim scholars have a firm that’s true.
But many also see this Islamization simply as a political strategy or a tool. After the death of Hafez al-Assad in 2000; his son Bashar al-Assad took over and is still the sitting President. The Alawites have a very strong presence in the politics of Syria today with some estimates showing that maybe 80% of Alawites population work in the government in some fashion. the question of their identity is one that is continuously debated many argue that the Alawites today can be divided into two branches one that is called the new societies and one that’s called the Alawites.
The Alawites or Nusayris being those who want to emphasize their closeness to Shia Islam while the Society’s being those who retain or preserves some of the more unique aspects historically of this religious group. Sometimes divided Alawites into three other branches; Shanxi branches for Shia Muslim sees the Prophet Muhammad has an equal if not superior role to ally the motions on the other hand are based on a movement started by Suleiman Al Murshid who in the 1920s claimed to be a prophet and raised an army to revolt against the Syrian state. Lastly are those who are in a majority and these are the Alawites; who seem to believe that Ali is God clearly.
Bashar al-Assad is a pretty famous face around the world and one that people are pretty familiar with. Most people know that he is the current president of Syria and people don’t know, not a lot of people at least, is that he and a large portion of the government in Syria belonged to a religious minority who are known as the Alawites.